When do we begin to remember?

“We come into this world, get walloped and it goes downhill from there.” I don’t remember who said that but I’m sure you’re familiar with the sentiment.

I could tell you I remember that incident and have been looking for the little punk who mugged me ever since, but to be honest, the details are a little hazy.

Some people believe all that brutality in the birthing room sets the tone and that’s why we have the world we have today. Others would say it is preparation for that world and birthing into foam and flowers is not only unrealistic but a cruel hoax setting the innocent up for false expectations.

The fact is a freshly born baby may not be paying much attention and there’s nothing like a smack to bring some focus into the equation. After all, nothing like a little pain to make you feel alive.

My first memories were formed when I was about three. This is sure because we moved after my sister was born and I was three when we moved.

This is what I believe is my first memory. A girl about my age lived directly across the street from us then. I remember her name being Karen Diamond. My Mom assures me that her name was not Karen but she doesn’t remember what it was.

(Karen (if that is your name), if you are out there reading this, I want you to know I never forgot you!)

My Mom does remember that Maj. Diamond (USMC) was a very nice man who would sometimes come over to our house, sit on our stoop and talk with my Mom while we kids played in the yard. Mom says that Mrs. Diamond was stand offish and was never was very friendly. I asked if the fact that her husband was spending so much time on our front stoop with her might have something to do with his wife’s shyness. Mom didn’t have an answer for that. Being shy herself, and modest, she wouldn’t have thought of that. She was always beautiful and still is.

At three, I was oblivious to all those subtle emotional undercurrents the grownups were navigating. However, at three, Karen (for lack of a better name) was a real looker herself.

One cool morning I went calling. I don’t honestly know what three year olds do for entertainment. Television was all the rage so we probably watched “Laurel and Hardy” or “Ding Dong School”. “Sesame Street”, was light years away in television’s conceptual universe.

Around lunch time I started home. It was summer and I was barefoot. We lived on a quiet street and I thought nothing of crossing it to my house by myself. I also didn’t think about the fact that the sun had been heating the asphalt to egg frying temperatures all morning. Quietly humming “Singin’ in the Rain” to myself I blithely stepped onto the boiling pavement and immediately let out a shriek that I’m sure rattled windows for blocks around. Having no experience with this kind of pain nor understanding of its source all I could do was scream and dance from one foot to the other.

Maj. Diamond happened to be home and came to my rescue. He swept me up like a small bag of potatoes and in about three strides deposited me gently into the cool grass on my side of the street. That grass was cool. My feet were, and therefore I was much relieved.

I’m sure experts can say how much trauma affects our earliest memories but that experience shocked me into consciousness like nothing else at that age. Many decades later, recovering from an operation it occurred to me that it is not the pain that is so horrible but the fear that it won’t stop. I was taking pain pills and was concerned I would run out because the pain kept getting worse and the pills had no effect. The nurse I spoke with told me I would kill myself and the pain if I kept taking the pills at the rate I was consuming them. After she assured me the pain would stop eventually I decided to tough it out and quit taking the ineffective pills. A child’s first shot is horrific due to his having no perspective. But in time (for some of us) a shot is but a momentary discomfort and that is all.

I think that fear of the unknown is the source of much more anxiety than any known consequence to which one can adapt.

How many people are on Prozac?

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